Tick bite results in stomach problems
December 13, 2013
To the editor:

Some of you may know of this already, but in case you donít, you should. The Mammalian Meat Allergy (aka Alpha-Gal Allergy) is a recently described tick-borne condition. It is mostly restricted to states in the southeastern U.S. where the Lone Star Tick, the vector, is prevalent; Missouri and Virginia have the highest number of known cases.

While the specific mechanism has not be confirmed, it is thought that the human immune system, when exposed to Lone Star Ticks that have a specific sugar (galactose, alpha 1,3, galactose), forms antibodies against the sugar. This sugar is also found in mammalian meat (except for Old World primate lineages; to which humans, chimps and gorillas belong) and when said types of meat are consumed and metabolized they trigger an allergic reaction that can range from hives or gastric distress to full on anaphylaxis. Because it takes several hours for the meat to metabolize, the reaction does not present for 2 to 8 hours after exposure; making it very difficult to diagnose. The most common misdiagnosis for the condition is ďidiopathic anaphylaxisĒ.

Iím bringing it up because after having a summer of horrible stomach pain and clueless gastroenterologists, someone mentioned to me that I should get tested for the Mammalian Meat Allergy. While I looked for a doctor that would take me seriously or that was up to date on obscure medical knowledge (not easily done in the Ozarks), I removed mammalian meat from my diet. My troubles immediately resolved. Eight weeks later, after consulting an immunologist, I was given the blood test. It came back positive.

Currently, the only known treatment is the avoidance of mammalian meat. As long as I do that, Iím perfectly healthy and I plan on being in the field as much or more than ever next summer. While it is customary to keep oneís health issues a private matter, I keep thinking that there could be other folks suffering from this easily controlled condition. The immunologist informed me that there are six confirmed cases in her office alone and that she suspects there are many suffers that are undiagnosed due to the delayed response to meat and a general lack of awareness in the medical community. Given how regularly most of us play Russian Roulette with the ticks, you may want to pass the word around.

Oh yeah, and donít invite me to any B-B-Qís.

Justin R. Thomas, director
Institute of Botanical Training, LLC, Salem, MO

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